Monday, July 7, 2008

Grieving a Sudden Death

In my last post, I shared some Eastern wisdom from Sogyal Rinpoche's great book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. I really enjoyed reading it, if for no other reason than that it gave me an entirely new perspective on death. I find that Western grief books almost always tell you that grief is forever, that you will always be grieving to some degree. In the Eastern tradition, however, the approach to grief is noticeably different — we can learn to let go of our dead spouse and go on with living.

Tonight's post will be about grieving a sudden death. While Deb's death was far from sudden, I have now met a good number of widow/ers whose spouse did die suddenly. Sogyal shares some important grieving advice which will hopefully help you to heal more quickly:

[from pages 312-313]:

Facing loss alone in our society is very different. And all the usual feelings of grief are magnified intensely in the case of a sudden death, or a suicide. It reinforces the sense that the bereaved is powerless in any way to help their loved one who is gone. It is very important for survivors of sudden death to go and see the body, otherwise it can be difficult to realize that death has actually happened. If possible, people should sit quietly by the body, to say what they need to, express their love, and start to say goodbye.

If this is not possible, bring out a photo of the person who has just died and begin the process of saying goodbye, completing the relationship, and letting go. Encourage those who have suffered the sudden death of a loved one to do this, and it will help them to accept the new, searing reality of death. Tell them too of these ways I've been describing of helping a dead person, simple ways they too can use, instead of sitting hopelessly going over again and again the moment of death in silent frustration and self-recrimination.

In the case of a sudden death, the survivors may often experience wild and unfamiliar feelings of anger at what they see as the cause of the death. Help them express that anger, because if it is held inside, sooner or later it will plunge them into a chronic depression. Help them to let go of the anger and uncover the depths of pain that hide behind it. Then they can begin the painful but ultimately healing task of letting go.

It happens often too that someone is left after the death of a loved one feeling intense guilt, obsessively reviewing mistakes in the past relationship, or torturing themselves about what they might have done to prevent the death. Help them to talk about their feelings of guilt, however irrational and crazy they may seem. Slowly these feelings will diminish, and they will come to forgive themselves and go on with their lives.


I'll finish up tonight's post with another quick excerpt from the book, this time dealing with the perspective of grief as a gift. All too often we experience grief as some terrible emotion that we just want to get rid of at all costs. Perhaps the following perspective can help you change this desire to run away from grief. I healed a tremendous amount when I wanted to find out what lay on the other side of grief:

[from page 316]:

You may even come to feel mysteriously grateful toward your suffering, because it gives you such an opportunity of working through it and transforming it. Without it you would never have been able to discover that hidden in the nature and depths of suffering is a treasure of bliss. The times when you are suffering can be those when you are most open, and where you are extremely vulnerable can be where your greatest strength really lies.

Say to yourself then: "I am not going to run away from this suffering. I want to use it in the best and richest way I can, so that I can become more compassionate and more helpful to others." Suffering, after all, can teach us about compassion. If you suffer you will know how it is when others suffer. And if you are in a position to help others, it is through your suffering that you will find the understanding and compassion to do so.

So whatever you do, don't shut off your pain; accept your pain and remain vulnerable. However desperate you become, accept your pain as it is, because it is in fact trying to hand you a priceless gift: the chance of discovering, through spiritual practice, what lies behind sorrow. "Grief," Rumi wrote, "can be the garden of compassion." If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom.

And don't we know, only too well, that protection from pain doesn't work, and that when we try to defend ourselves from suffering, we only suffer more and don't learn what we can from the experience? As Rilke wrote, the protected heart that is "never exposed to loss, innocent and secure, cannot know tenderness; only the won-back heart can ever be satisfied: free, through all it has given up, to rejoice in its mastery."


In my grief work, I wanted to learn what grief had to show me, and I only wanted to learn it once! Over time, I was able to look at grief as a friend and companion; an experience to be embraced, not a torment to be endured.

92 comments:

jessica said...

Hi, Vic. First time that I have read your blog, and how timely! My husband died unexpectedly in mid-May (not suicide - but medical reasons are still not clear). Thanks for your blog, and I will put it in my list of favorites.

jannfreed said...

Some good thoughts on grief. I could not agree more. Thanks.

Jane said...

I'll print this post to give to my friends and family because it so expresses my feelings. Eleven days ago, my husband dropped dead in the shower from an aneurysm, and I've been beating myself up ever since. I should have been here with him ... perhaps I could have saved him ... I should have kissed him beforehand ... I should have been holding his hand when he died, etc. I hope I can get to a better place some day.

Bonnie said...

My husband died suddenly on May 20th, I still find myself reliving that day over and over, wanting it to be a different result. How can someone be here one minute and gone the next?

Anonymous said...

Oh my.

I lost my spouse in May 2009. Car accident was sudden. One day they are here, the next day, gone! One day full of plans with a future; the next day dumped by the roadway, nowhere to go.

I walk around during the day, feeling that my soul has been shredded in a paper shredder, and only strings are left behind. My days are long, and lonely.

Funny, how a social life can become very lonely. My phone use to ring off the hook, and now I wonder if it even works. Emails come in, but they try to sell me things which I have no desires.

People try to console me, saying “it was their time”, “God needed my spouse more in heaven”, “this too will pass”, and “time heals all wounds”. These words mean nothing to me, nor do they even make sense.

I am upset with God, as this summer was to be special. I am upset with friends, as their relationships have lasted longer than mine. I am upset with family, as they pictured my spouse as they wanted to during the funeral. I am upset with life, as my spouse had life, and now they do not.

Its funny, I still feel numb. It’s funny, I still say goodnight to my spouse. It’s funny, I get moments of confusion. It’s funny, I still feel like my spouse embraces’. It’s funny; I think I am going mad.

I read the stories posted on this site, and I think Oh my, I have to wait that long before these feeling go away. I have to wait how long before I can truly laugh. I am in no mood to see others, to start something new, nor do I feel like going out and seeing people.

I am not suicidal, but let me tell you, I have no will to keep going. Not that I will take my life away, but I would welcome death, if it was there for the taking.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
i lost my young, brother.my mother has same, feelings like you,she feels, she could have saved him from heart attack, we are reeling in shock, i am yet able to grieve openly.i wished he would come back and life was just the same, we are feeling, void in our lives, my mom, was suicidal, but now, she prays her son, calls her soon, ,welcoming, death....

Anonymous said...

Lost my husband on 10/26/09. Feelings of guilt, I just wish I had time to speak to him. I miss him a lot, although these last few years we had a lot of fights. We were married 29 years. You dont realize how much you love someone, until they are gone. Just wish I could have told him...

jayaraghavan said...

Sudden death-----oh!!!!!! God how could... I lost my wife on 11th March 2010,Cardiac arrest and brain steam death. I still remember the last week end (sunday)the beautiful weekend I spent with my wife, We went for a movie and afer that we went for CIRCUS.

On 7th March she had a head ace and we took it lightly, on 8th again she had head ace and vomiting while on duty.and we planned to meet the docutor in the evening but due to some reason we were not able to meetm, on 9th she again had the same and we immediately took her to Hospital where doctor took a CT and found Melgt Tumor 15 mm x 13 mm, they try to operate, but a sudden cardiac arrest resulted a brain injury and doctors declared brain steam death..I lost her....left my son 4 year and me alone......

Vic said...

Hi jayaraghavan, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Do you need any assistance finding a good grief support group in your area? If so, just let me know, and I'll do what I can to help.

As the book excerpt stated, it is so important to be able to discuss feelings of anger and guilt. At a grief support group, you can do this with people who truly understand what you are going through, for they too are going through it or have gone through it.

Borrow their wisdom and their strength. Grieving is not something you want to do alone.

May you find peace,

Vic

Bet said...

A friend just sent me the link to your site. My husband (age 52) died suddenly a little more than two weeks ago. He had hypertension and slightly impaired fasting glucose, and was taking Benicar HCT. Three days after his death an FDA announcement came out about clinical trials showing an increase in sudden cardiovascular deaths for people with Type II diabetes taking Benicar. Now I am tormented by these circumstances. (see http://www.cragman.com/hypertension.)

I am also accumulating fear and worry. (See list at http://www.cragman.com/fears.htm). Probably many of these fears and worries are normal. The quotes your included are helpful to me. Thank you for setting up this site.

Vic said...

Hi Bet, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I'm glad this blog has been helpful to you, and I'm glad you enjoy the quotes as well.

I read both links you sent me, and it seems to me like you are grieving normally, if there is such a thing.

Regarding fears and worries, it can be helpful to keep in mind that these are all projections into the future.

Fear stems from the idea that we will somehow be inadequate in the future. Yet, when we examine ourselves, we seem to be adequate for the present. Proof: we're here!

When I struggle with fear about anything, I remind myself that at the moment I am OK, or, at the very least, that I've somehow made it this far.

Or, there's always the wisdom of Mark Twain:

I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened

;-)

Take care,

Vic

Anonymous said...

Sorry for your loss.
I just lost my husband of four months suddenly, and well... I'm just making it day-to-day. Thank you for this blog. I intend to read the book you suggested, as it sounds helpful to me as well. I'm not how to grieve or why people keep wanting me to cry for them, but I want to be strong for our children. I've been looking for ways to cope with concerned family, while I try to grieve for my husband. I feel so lost.

T-Hobbs

Vic said...

Hi T-Hobbs, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Feeling lost after our spouse dies (especially after a sudden death) is pretty standard fare unfortunately. It took me a long time to get my bearings again.

Crying is actually pretty helpful, but the tears may not come for several weeks or months. It took me about 7 months to come out of the haze I had been in since Deb died. And then, boy did the tears come!

When you do cry, cry for yourself, not for anyone else's benefit. They want you to cry because they know that expressing your grief is important (which it is), but that expression will likely happen on your timetable, not someone else's.

Your body knows how to grieve, even if your mind doesn't. And you will grieve like no one else has -- your grief is unique to you. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

And grief is a selfish time. It is a time for you. My guess is the people telling you how to grieve are not the ones who have lost their spouse.

That's great that your family is concerned, but if they are being overbearing you may need some space. Like I said, grief is a selfish time. You need time for your own thoughts and concerns. There's nothing wrong with asking for some space and time to sort your head out.

May you find peace,

Vic

Rose D. said...

I lost my Fiance 10/31/10, we were together altmost 5years. He died suddenly, we knew he had some health problems, the friday before we google his symptoms and came back as Hiatal hernia but we (I) didn't do anything we just said we need to change or eatting habits and loose weigh and Monday he will go to the doctor.... he died while I was sleeping.. I found him the next morning on the livingroom and the guilt is killing me because I was suppost to take care of him and didn't do anything..On top of that he was my boss so i miss him so much at work too.. and because we were not legally married I have finnancial issues and had to move out of our home (we were renting)by the end of the month.. I always hate the holyday season but he made me look forward to it, and now I just hate it even more... He was my life (we spend 24hrs aday together) and now I feel totally lost

Vic said...

Hi Rose D, I'm very sorry for your loss.

It is pretty normal to feel guilty after a death, especially a sudden one. I finally came to the conclusion that I did the best that I could at the time.

Is there a bereavement support group near you? I found one after a few months, and they helped me a great deal. It really helped to be able to sit down with a group of people who had all experienced the loss of their spouse -- they understood me in a way none of my friends or family could.

May you find peace,

Vic

chau said...

I lost my husband of 3 years suddenly on this past Thanksgiving. He complained of headache, then later collapsed. I called ambulance to rush him to hospital. He suffered a massive stroke causing brain stem death. They said most likely cause is hypertension, or maybe aneurysm, but not know for sure because CT scan showed too much blood. He was happy and healthy before all this happened. Since then I've been tormented by guilt, that I did not monitor his health better, that maybe if I could read the warning sign and rush him to hospital earlier he could have been saved. Of course, other guilts also surfaced, of little arguments that we had, etc... Every night, the same scenario kept replaying in my head!

Vic said...

Hi Chau, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Guilt is a very, very common grief symptom. A phrase that has helped me is, "I did the best I could at the time." If I could have done better, I would have.

While these are early days for you yet, are you able to find a grief support group in your area? Such a group was a major factor in my finding closure, and regular meetings helped me through the roughest spots. If you need help finding a group, drop me a line and I'll do what I can to help.

May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

Hi Vic,
I met my fiancee 4 years ago and we have been inseparable ever since. We were waiting until I finished college to get married and start our family together. That all changed about a month ago when he suddenly passed away in his sleep. I have been devasted ever since because the night before we got into a fight over something so stupid. I decided to sleep on the couch and when I woke the next morning I found him and he was gone. The only comfort I get is that I told him I loved him and that I was just upset with him at the moment. But I still feel so guilty, I should have been there to help him, I should have known something was wrong, I should have went into the bedroom when I woke in the middle of the night. But I didn't and I am living with this guilt but I don't know how to keep going. I did start going back to work and I finished up my semester but I just don't care anymore. I don't care if I graduate I don't care if I start my career, I don't care if I die tomorrow. I would actually be happier if I did because then I could see him again. How do you keep going after you a part of you dies?

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss.

How does one keep going? Well, for me, there was definitely a time when I didn't care to. I remember staring up at the ceiling once for 4 hours straight, thinking nothing but "Life is Pointless." That was definitely a low point in several months of low points.

What can I say? Grieving sucks. It sucks the very life out of you.

What I discovered was that my body knew how to grieve. I had to learn to quit resisting. This meant that when a wave of grief washed over me, I gave in to it. If that meant bawling for a half hour, so be it, regardless of what the poor sod I was sitting next to on the bus might have thought ;-)

I'm sorry you're feeling guilty for what happened. Here's what I believe -- you did the best you could have at the time.

Here's a phrase that I found really helpful in banishing the "Should Have's"

Should'a, Could'a, Would'a, Didn't'a!

Somehow that phrase helped me focus on the here and now and not get lost in a fantasyland. And knowing that I did the best I could have at the time also helped.

May you find peace,

Vic

kelly said...

Hi Vic,
My husband of 20 years and my soul-mate of 26....since I was 16 year's old, died of an accidental overdoes of prescription pain medicine & alcohol. It is coming upon the 4th anniversary in a couple of months and for some reason I feel like I've started grieving again.... not that I ever totally stopped... but lately I keep going over everything in my head again.... the guilt pours in again... everything reminds me of our beautiful life together... every song, every quote, every season comes with memories :( Why am I regressing?
I keep these thoughts and emotions from my 2 teenage children because I want to be a strong role model for them.... they had such a difficult time going forward without a Dad.
Will I ever feel inner peace and happiness again? Or is this "it"... what the rest of my life will be like?
Does anyone else out there still grieve after so much time has passed? Is this normal???
Thanks for listening...

Anonymous said...

I just lost my boyfriend of almost 9 years. His passing was so sudden. It's only been a day and a half. I still can't believe he's gone. I can't eat or sleep. My stomach is so upset. The tears have started now. And I feel guilty, that I could have prevented it somehow. I'm a fairly logical person and no that I probably couldn't have. But I can't stop thinking the what if's. It truly feels like the pain well never lessen. I want some pain. I just don't know what to do. He was my only true friend. He had some health issues, but I thought I'd have more time. I'm going to find a grief councillor pretty quick. Thanks for your blog

Nico

Vic said...

Hi Kelly, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Anniversary dates are common grief triggers as I'm sure you know. So that can certainly explain why you're experiencing a STUG -- Sudden Temporary Upsurge of Grief -- right now. I'm not sure that a word like "regression" is very helpful or accurate. I sure get that it feels that way though.

From all my experience as a widower and also as a volunteer facilitator with Bereaved Families, I've come to understand the need to fully experience grief. What does that mean? When grief comes up, legitimize the feeling. Allow it to be there. Welcome it. As hard as that can be. Make a friend of it. And most importantly, express it. Tell someone how you are feeling. Grief support groups are enormously helpful in this regard. If you feel like crying, cry. In my case, I cried wherever I was, no matter what I was doing. Like driving. Or at work. Or riding the bus. If the person sitting beside me didn't like it, he could always sit somewhere else ;-)

I've also heard great things from widows and widowers who decided to be very open with their teenage children about how much their grief was affecting them. In many cases, the kids were also still grieving but didn't feel like they had permission to grieve from their "strong" parent. Something to consider...

In my experience, inner peace comes from fully living in this moment. I came to experience peace by making it my primary focus. I literally looked at everything in my life and made a choice -- it, or peace. Choosing the way of peace took me on a remarkable journey. At the end of that journey, I discovered a peace that transcends all understanding. Or, in other words, it was way better than any kind of peace I had experienced before.

Happiness? That's a different story. I like the 3 levels of happiness described by Martin Seligman, PHD:

1. Pleasure / hedonism

2. Virtue / cultivating your strengths

3. Meaning / being a part of something bigger than yourself

Here's an article about the man and his work you may find helpful:
http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/martin-seligman/seligman-on-happiness/

I firmly believe that you will feel inner peace and happiness if you choose to. Will it be the same? Nothing will ever be the same. But it can be better. I experience more peace and am happier now than I have ever been. I wish the same for you and for everyone.

Take care,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Nico, I'm very sorry for your loss.

What you are experiencing right now is familiar I'm sure to most people reading this blog. Grief hurts. Grief sucks. And these are early days for you. I am so sorry. You're embarking on a big life journey.

Grief counseling sounds like a good idea. And do consider a local peer support group as well. It made a tremendous difference to my journey.

Do go easy on yourself. Feeling guilty and responsible is very normal. I find peace now in knowing that I did the best I could at the time. If I could have done better, I would have done better.

May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

Thanks Vic. It has only been 6+ days since my loss and have already been able to start my healing process. I know I have a very long way to go, but the change from how I felt 4+ days ago compared to now is surprising. I am not feeling the guilt I felt. I see now that my husband was ready. Neither of us wanted any drawn out suffering. My husband left the way we had talked about. I just thought I'd have more time before he would leave.

Now I'm considering using my experience to help other going through the same thing. I feel that in some time this will be something I would like to do. Obviously, not away. I can only grow from this experience. Thanks again for you blog.

Nico

Gaye said...

Hi Vic,
I lost my soulmate of 27years my friend for 32 years on Jan 16th 2011. He had a bad headache and then suffered a stroke. The doctors told us no damage and that he could make a full recovery. He was progressing for the first week and he was to have a routine follow up MRI at the end of the week. Well the night he was to have another mri he suffered another massive bleed. This time there was no hope. I am having a real hard time. He had just turned 50 one week prior. We were to have gone to the Keys in March so I could show off my newly acquired diving skills he had purchased for me for Christmas. He was going to meet our sons the following week and take in Spring training with them. This would have been the first time he had ever taken a two week vacation. I am doing ok. But in my stomach there is such a longing. I know I did the best I could for him so I don't feel the guilt but I miss his presence. I miss him holding me . He was such a vibrant life of the party, live every moment sort of guy. I am working so that does help but the weekends and nights are long. I have three beautiful young adult children that are helping. Right now though I feel like I have to protect them. I feel like something else could be taken from me and it is scary.

Gaye

Vic said...

Hi Gaye, I'm very sorry for your loss. I can relate to how you're likely feeling right now. I missed Deb so bad I ached. But you know, over the last five years, a funny thing happened. Somehow she became integrated with me, like she is a part of me now. I don't miss her anymore, I feel like she is always with me.

I hope this blog helps you find some peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

Hello,i have lost my wife 2 months ago in a sudden death,she was 28 years old,i knew her for 10 years and was married for 3 and a half years,i have a 3 years old daughter,i am trying to adapt and move on in my life but it seems grief isn't going away,i still spend every night crying till i sleep,she was 3 minutes away from the hospital and no one was able to save her including myself even after performing cpr,she was my only and first love in my life,i knew her since she was 17.
When i look to my daughter i see her mother in her face because she looks like her,she is the only one keeping me going on and my sadness isn't affecting her in anyway.
i am just a 32 years old widower that lost his spouse at her 28,in my country there is nothing called as helping grief group,i would like someone who understand this feeling and can help in anyway.

Anonymous said...

My husband died suddenly in August and my dad took a turn for the worse healthwise and 6 weeks later had a brain bleed. I have taken care of my parents for two years prior to my husbands death and uon my dad being hospitalized, I took mom to visit him at the hospital and then at the nursing center until October and just could not do it any longer. I could not watch my dad go downhill and having three other siblings I felt comfortable with that. How wrong I was. They since have quit talking to me, dismissing my daughter and telling me that I am the most self-centered, selfish person they have known. I am not. I just don't know what my future is. I have lived on what we had saved since May and am considering now leaving my home because I can't get work. What don't they understand? Or is it me? We were married 31 years, most of them were great years. It just feels unbearable that my life was turned upside down at 58 years old in just under 24 hours and now all of this family drama. Don't know what to do.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss. Three months is still pretty early days yet. Which country are you in? I'll see if I can find some local resources to help you out.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss. Families can be real jerks sometimes, can't they? For the ones who are giving you a hard time, were they also looking after your parents for two years? Or is this a case of armchair philosophy? You sound like a very loving, caring person who has simply been overwhelmed.

Yes, grief certainly has a way of turning our lives upside down. Or, in many cases, blasting it to smithereens. It sounds like now is a good time to take care of yourself. It has been said that grief is a selfish time, and I totally agree with that. Take the time you need to look after yourself and your situation. People will run their mouths regardless of what you do. When your rude family members lose their spouse, they'll be qualified to have an opinion about your situation. Until then, they're just clueless. Leave them to their ignorance.

May you find peace,

Vic

Dolores said...

Hello Vic my name is Dolores I was looking for help on my griefing for my husband of 40yrs. He died June 16, 2006 of a stroke. He was in ICu for 2 months, Our kids made it fincially prossble for me to stay with him. The doctors moved him to 3 different hospitals. The 3rd one was to get him back on his feet. He looked so good. He even talked to his boss about going back to work.
The second day there T thought it sould be ok to go home for the night. When I was leaving he told me to be careful and I kiss him goodbye. That next morning I got a call to get to the hospital that they couldn't revive him. He had died before I got there. I keep thinking if I was there would he had made it.
It's been 5yrs and I cry over every little thing and stay angry and guilty. My kids don't want to be around me. I want to feel happy again. I miss him so much still.

Vic said...

Hi Dolores, I'm so very sorry for your loss.

Is there any way you could connect with a grief peer support group in your area? Five years is a long time for grief to still be so strong.

Here's an introduction to peer support and what it can do for you:
http://www.bfotoronto.ca/programs/peer_mutual_support.asp

Peer support was a major reason that I progressed through my grief as quickly as I did. I hope it can help you in a similar way.

May you find peace,

Vic

Ali said...

Vic,
This is wonderful what you are doing with others. I can't imagine ever being able to help anyone else going through this.

I am 25 yrs old, I have a 5yr old daughter and a one month old son. My husband was killed last week in a motorcycle accident. I am so lost with out him here and don't know how I will get through this. I am trying to be strong for our children...but it is so hard to imagine life without him.

If you have any advice for me I would love to hear it.

Anonymous said...

My spouse was also killed in a motorcycle accident, hit by a drunk driver 9 months ago. My children are 12 and 14 and it feels like my world has done a 180.I remember people telling me how well I was doing and how strong I was. I did not want to let them or my children down so I kept trying to look like that. But I was dieing inside. Long story short 6 months later i was in the hospital. Its important to let yourself cry, scream, yell or do whatever you have to do to take care of yourself. Being "strong" in this case is a weakness. After this long I am finally letting myself feel and some days are good and some days I still wish it was me on that bike. The term "one day at a time" takes on a whole new meaning. Be kind to yourself and let others take care of you when you need it. My heart goes out to you.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vic and all who have posted.

Wow this is overwhelming to read just how many people have lost their spouses or loved ones so suddenly. I am deeply moved and am so sorry for all your losses.

I am based in Australia and have recently lost the love of my life. I have loved my man since I was 10 years old. We originally met in high school, and grew to love each other as teens. We soon worked out we had a massive connection on a spiritual level. Although we did not marry each other, our love stayed strong over our lives spent in different parts of the world. We lost contact for over 15 years as we led different lives with different spouses.

My beloved located me one day in 2004 after many years of separation and no contact. He emailed our old school to find me. I left work early that day but took his number with me. I called him and was initially very casual as I thought he was still married. I was overjoyed when I found out he was single.

Our love blossomed immediately from that day onwards. He lived interstate at the time so within 3 months were had bought a house and moved in together with our newly blended family of 4 teenage girls. "The Brady Bunch" so to speak.

We had 6 - 7 blissful years together before my soulmate, and only true love, suddenly passed away at his work. He went to work one morning, in March 2011, and was dead within 1 hour of arriving. No warning, no opportunity for goodbyes. No one at his work recognised his symptoms of heart attack and so did not call an ambulance. He died alone.

I am at 20 weeks tomorrow and it still feels like yesterday. So many triggers create flashbacks for me that take me back to that horrific day, when I was brought into his work to see his body.

I am trying to remain positive for our children but I agree with many of your postings, if death was to come visit me, i would not knock it back as it would bring me closer to my soulmate again.

How do you move on from a lifetime love? All the plans and dreams for a lovely future in ruins. I miss my darling boy every single day. My life has been ripped apart and there is nothing I can do to make it better.

I only hope that I can learn to live around and with my grief and integrate my soulmate into my physical being.

Some days, I am thankful for my grief as I now see life through different eyes and no longer sweat the small stuff. Some days I am not that thankful as it hurts like nothing I have ever experienced.

I have been completely alienated by my friends and family and don't really have any support around me. It is an interesting journey that I am travelling right now as I am discovering that so many people are ignorant to death and grieving issues and don't want to be enlightened by sharing my journey.

I sincerely hope that you all are safe and well on your pathways to recovery and I hope to hear from anyone who is interested in responding,

Vic, thank you for providing the vehicle for grieving people to vent or post their thoughts and feelings and of course share their precious stories.

Sue :) xo

Debbie said...

My husband died suddently of a heart attack on April 11th within seconds after arriving to his job.

Within an hour, a sheriff was at my door, telling me what happened.
The rest is foggy but I recall saying that I have to see my husband's body immediately to believe what he is telling me.

I have a tremendous amount of guilt about not being with him when he died and especially not seeing the signs of a heart attack. I found out later that my son has been carrying around alot of guilt as well. He use to be an EMT and was trained to evaluate quickly on the condition of a patient just by looking at them. His guilt is not seeing the signs on his own father.

Even now, I continue to re-live the days before his death in my mind but each time a different situation takes place. I get him to the doctor on time, I'm with him to do CPR or I make him go in for a physical the week before. All the scenes I play out in my mind ends with my husband alive at the end; then reality kicks in.

Vic said...

Hi Ali, I am very sorry for your loss.

How will you get through this? Probably a bit like I did -- one day at a time, sometimes one hour or one minute or one second at a time.

It is totally normal to feel lost without our dead spouse, and it is also totally normal to be unable to imagine our life without them. In fact, trying to imagine a life without them will be a major grief trigger for months and months and months. So don't worry about imagining that new life now. There will be time enough for that when the time is right.

You are in the early days yet -- it took me a good 5-6 months before the full enormity of what "Deb died" really meant. So things may well get worse before they get better. It helps a wee bit knowing that going in. You can think of it like a milestone on your journey.

My best advice? Find a peer-based support group in your area. Especially one with programs for young children. Grieving isn't something you want to do all alone, and those who are in your shoes are the best people to help you through this. And without meaning to necessarily, you will in turn be helping others get through their grief journeys as well.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Thank you so much for sharing that you are finally letting yourself feel. It is so vitally important! I too tried to dodge the Grief Monster for a good 6 months, but it caught up with me and got my attention. I felt like someone took me out at the knees.

But a funny thing happened -- once I couldn't stand and pretend I was fine anymore, once I started paying attention to what I was feeling at that moment, that's when my grief journey truly began. And the only way out is through.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Sue (Anonymous), I am very sorry for your loss.

You are right -- the life you had was ripped apart, and there is nothing you can do to make that life better.

As an optimist, that was one of the hardest things for me to accept. The death of hope. I had been raised to believe that there was always hope. And then Deb died, and any hope of her ever getting better died also. I wasn't prepared for a life without hope. It really threw me.

I believe you can integrate your soulmate into your physical being. I'm a firm believer that our memories exist throughout our bodies, not just in our brain. And you know, a funny thing happened some while back -- I no longer feel separated from Deb. I feel like she is a part of me, like she is always with me. I didn't go seeking this -- it just happened.

If you can find a peer-based support group near you, you will find a wealth of support from people walking the very same road along the grief journey.

And you are very welcome about the blog :-) I am glad people find it helpful.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Debbie, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Guilt is a major issue in grief. When I have helped facilitate 10-week grief support groups, we spend at least one full session just talking about guilt.

In the end, you did the best you could at the time. So did your son.

Your description of re-living the days before his death is very normal for a grieving person. This seems to be how it is for many, many people. The grief journey has many twists and turns, and this is simply where you are now.

If you can find a peer-based support group in your area, they can help with the guilt you feel.

May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

Hi Vic,
I just lost my love, Paul on Sept. 14,2011. I've bought I don't know how many grief books, have an appointment this Tuesday with a grief counselor. I'm just feeling like nothing is going to help, how can it?
We didn't live together but spent most of our time together or on the phone. He made me laugh, happy...I love him so much, we were meant for each other. How is it possible to move on with life when I just don't care? The house is a mess, I'm a mess. I don't eat, sleep very little, cry all the time. I worry about my job, they've been nice but I now feel like I'd better pretend to be "getting better" as they call it. Pretending takes so much energy and I don't have it. With all that said, it's my sadness, my heart is broken, I miss the sound of his voice that overwhelms me. He left me a message on my answering machine and I listen to it over and over just to hear his voice.

I believe in God, him well I'm not so sure...he said sometimes no, but from talking with him got the feeling he wasn't sure. On top of everything else, I worry was God with him when he passed, will we see each other again? I'm still talking to him, and he answers me in my mind. I've read that happens sometimes, some say I'm lucky. Am I lucky or losing my mind. Am I just trying to hold on to him, when I should be letting go? I'm so confused about so many things,and still have to make a life for myself.
May be I need medication, does counseling really help? I know I sound like a crazy person, but I've looked a lot of different blogs and felt like this was one where I could let this all out and others could relate.
I pray for everyone that has gone through or is going though the grieving process. This has to be the hardest thing to go through. I can totally relate to the person who said they were not suicidal, as I don't think like that but don't really have the will to go on.
Thank you so very much for your site, may you have love, peace and happiness.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vic
I lost my spouse in a motorcycle accident. We were together for the past 3 years now. That one incident changed my entire life. It was so difficult for me to get over the tragedy. It was as if a part of my soul just died. My friends and my family consoled me. I motivated myself and moved on keeping a hope that someday we will reunite again. Few months back i met ricky and i fell in love with him instantly. It was a magical feeling i used to have when i was with him. He helped me to get over my depression and i thought maybe my life will take a new course. But i had forgotten that it was my life i am talking about. Ricky passed away two days back due to cancer. im completely broken up now. All my faith and hope have crashed into pieces.Im guilty that maybe im so unlucky that whoever i will love, that person will die. Im having sleepless nights and im going through severe depression. The consolation from my parents and my friends are not working anymore on me. I have lost hope on life. I wish i could fall asleep and never wake up.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anonymous,

I wrote the post above yours, I am so sorry for your losses. I just had to write to you as my heart goes out to you. I know how difficult the pain is to endure, and now another heart break. You didn’t cause these deaths, we think that we have that power, but we do not. As hard as it is, and I do know how hard it is, because I’m still on the roller coaster ride of grief, may be if you let your mind for just a moment think that you brought these men love in time maybe you can believe it.
Maybe you aren’t cursed but may be you are a vehicle that God chose to use to bring love to someone who God knew didn’t have much time left.
I know it seems unfair, because I feel the same way sometimes. But I’m proud of the fact that I was able to give my beloved Paul, love before he had to leave this earth.
I think it’s so hard to let these thoughts in when you are grieving, numb, confused, heart broken, angry, and just plain crazy.
I know that the things that people say to console are just plain hard to hear, it’s even harder when you know they haven’t been through something so pain as a death of someone you care for.
And, even with all that said, it's just plain hard.
I’m still a mess; it been one month, 2 days since that I lost my Paul. I did see a grief counselor, and I do think that it has helped a bit to talk to someone that doesn’t know me.
Someone that I can say whatever is on my mind and they won’t think anything weird…like it’s hard to tell my mom things, cause I know she will worry.
You might try that, when you are up to it.
I just want you to know that there are others of us out here going through the same thing, of coarse your situation is unique to you, but we do understand the pain that you are going through.
I also want you to know that I will be praying for you, don’t shut the door on faith and hope…I know it feels like there is no one there to catch you right now, but you have to let the faith in or you can’t feel the comfort…that is what I’ve learn for me so far.
I’m no where even close to over it, accepting…what you call being able to go forward.
But, I know that when I was mad at God and my faith was shattered, I felt even worse, so alone. So my first step was to open the door.
Please take good care of yourself, I’ll be thinking of you.
BG

Anonymous said...

Sudden death is the worst thing to go through. It leaves you without a goodbye, it leaves you with thoughts of regret, thoughts of why didn't I do more, say more, be more to the one you loved. You feel like you will have more time, and suddenly that time is stolen from you. You are left alone with your heart broken into a million pieces, and you just can't figure out how to put it back together, or if you even want to put it together. What is the point, you take the time to know someone, to love them, nurture a relationship then suddenly you are left alone with your love, what do I do with it now? I miss the love he gave me so very much. One day I was lucky to have a person like him in my life, my friends told me so. Now I'm just lonely and sad.
My thoughts of him are never ending and memories are everywhere. Someone told me time will heal, I don't believe it. It has been months and it still feels like the beginning, although the shock has worn off, so now I just feel the overwhelming pain all of the time. I've read books, gone to group counseling, I've tried but still the pain is still their like a unwelcome guest, I feel like it doesn't belong here in me, but it will not leave or even let up. I feel like I would do almost anything to shed my skin, to get out of myself.

Anonymous said...

Hi Vic and grieving friends,

I've read all of your posts and I do appreciate your sharing these sorrowful stories. I just lost my beloved husband three weeks ago after ten years of a wonderful marriage to a rare neurological disease that came on suddenly. I guess you could say that it was a blessing to be able to know he was terminal and therefore I had about three weeks to stay with him around the clock. But it came on so suddenly and horrific to watch him deteriorate rapidly from day to day. My only hope now is that what has happened to Vic will "happen" to me-- or if I can somehow let that feeling take over-- that he will somehow become a part of my day to day existence as the soulmate that he was when he was with me. I can't stop crying, but don't want to alienate everyone in society either.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 2 Oct), I'm very sorry for your loss.

Wow, you actually wrote something quite profound in your first paragraph: "nothing is going to help." How absolutely right you are. Nothing is going to help you.

Here in the West we all seem to have this idea that we have to always be doing something. I was very much the same way when Deb died, that is up until around the five-month mark. That's about the time that my facade of "coping well" crashed down around me. I kind of felt like someone had taken me out at the knees with a lead pipe. I couldn't stand up and pretend anymore. And I gave up trying to do things. I decided to just do nothing. And you know what? That made all the difference.

If someone came up to me and said, "you have to do this," or "you have to do that," I looked them straight in the eye and said, "I don't have to do shit."

And I did nothing. Any big plans I had for the future I dropped. I stopped doing. And I started being.

I'm not going to pretend that from then on things got better -- in fact they got worse -- way, way worse. No one had ever prepared me for how absolutely awful I would feel at around 5-6 months out. But I decided to just experience it, the raw, unmitigated Grief Monster, in all its heartache and sorrow. And do nothing to stop it.

In fact, I even did an exercise to encourage it. To basically stare it down, to say, "do your worst."

"Nothing is going to help." How very, very true.

Anonymous, the experiences you describe are completely normal for a grieving person. You will get through this, you're on the right path. And the only way out is through.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 16 October), I'm very sorry for both your losses.

Wow, you have really been through the ringer! You know, from what I've read, compound losses are significantly more difficult to integrate. You might find this post about complicated grief to be helpful.

If there's any way you could find a grief peer-support group in your area, please check them out. This isn't the type of thing to try and work out on your own. There's a whole community of other bereaved people out there -- reach out to them. And they will reach out to you.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 6 Nov), I'm very sorry for your loss.

Time can heal, but I'm not sure that grief is a wound. The way I understand it, grief is a process. Time is a way of tracking our progress through grief. I don't really think that time by itself "does" anything special.

Based on my own experience and those of other bereavement group facilitators, 2 years is not an uncommon amount of time to fully process the grief of a dead spouse. So while it has been months, it doesn't sound like those months have progressed to years yet. I am sorry. Grief sucks.

If you are serious when you say you feel like you would do almost anything to shed your skin, to get out of yourself, then do check out Vipassana meditation. More than anything else, Vipassana taught me the art of living. For me, that first course marked my exit from the desert of grief.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 28 Nov), I'm very sorry for your loss.

These are really early days for you yet.

My best advice is to forget about society, at least those who haven't yet experienced the loss of their spouse. They won't be able to relate to what you're going through.

At five months out I was crying publicly while riding the bus. I just let the tears flow. I wanted to cry, so I did. Society be damned.

I'm not telling you this because I was proud of myself for crying in public. I just had to be true to myself. That was a time when my other ideas about life, the universe, and everything were turning out to be false. But I could be true to myself. So I was.

I guess I'm also letting you know that likely things will get worse before they get better. I know, I know, hard to believe. How could anything be worse that what you're now experiencing?

The best analogy I've found is that grief is like a desert. You find yourself caught in it, and you'd gladly do anything to get out. But the only way out is through. And you will get through it.

If you can find a grief peer-support group near you, do check them out. My local support group was a tremendous help along my journey through grief.

May you find peace,

Vic

Leilani said...

Aloha Vic,

I am most thankful and appreciative to find your site. I have a dear girlfriend who was killed on her motorcycle in an accident that happened the day after Thanksgiving, 11/25/11 in San Bernadino, Soutern California. Although your site is titled death of the spouse and she was not that for me, but rather a 'soul sister' I resonate deeply what you were writing about Grief being an opporutnity for growth and a heart stretching lesson in the garden of compassion. She had moved back to her homeland after living in the SF Bay Northern Califorinia are for the last 20 years. She said she wanted to go home and make peace with her family.

YOur words are the first words I have been really able to ground into since my pretty much non stop crying of the last two weeks. The deep ache in my heart is still here but I am trying to allow her spirit to fly towards the other realm while also knowing that we are still on a journey together. I have had several loved ones die of an expected death and prepared and watched the dying process but this is the first time I have had someone die suddenly which has it's own set of feelings.

Is the book that you are taking the quotes from in the Tibetan Book of the Dead? Thank you for your kind words and my soul is comforted by the offering you have given on this site.

Aloha, Leilani

Vic said...

Hi Leilani, I'm very sorry for your loss.

I'm glad you have found some grounding in this blog. Thanks for the feedback!

The quote above is taken from Sogyal Rinpoche's book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. It's not quite from the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Here's what Brian Bruya has to say about the difference between the two books:

"In 1927, Walter Evans-Wentz published his translation of an obscure Tibetan Nyingma text and called it the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Popular Tibetan teacher Sogyal Rinpoche has transformed that ancient text, conveying a perennial philosophy that is at once religious, scientific, and practical. Through extraordinary anecdotes and stories from religious traditions East and West, Rinpoche introduces the reader to the fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism, moving gradually to the topics of death and dying. Death turns out to be less of a crisis and more of an opportunity. Concepts such as reincarnation, karma, and bardo and practices such as meditation, tonglen, and phowa teach us how to face death constructively. As a result, life becomes much richer. Like Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Sogyal Rinpoche opens the door to a full experience of death. It is up to the reader to walk through."

You can read the whole book online here.

I hope this helps. May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

I lost my fiancee 4 months ago. Sudden death we were laughing one moment driving in his jeep. He just collapsed,slumped over the wheel our son in the back was screaming. I grabbed the wheel and steered it to as safe way I could. We never knew he had a heart problem and it was a sunny wonderful day. Since then I feel so lonely we were together 11 years and I feel lost without that person who knew me like no other.

Anonymous said...

The biggest thing that I get out of this blog is that I'm not as crazy as I feel. It's been 6 weeks since I lost my husband twice. I called 911 and did CPR after the first cardiac arrest. He made it to the hospital, but he was just too tired after the third time his heart stopped. Watching others try their hardest to bring him back was the second time that I lost him. He chose not to have children and I went a long with it, so now here I am, alone. We did everything together. The doctor even said that when you saw one, usually the other one wasn't far away. The half of me that's already dead was the rock that lived in the moment and didn't worry about things. Sometimes that wasn't the best choice either since that made me have to sometimes take on more that I should. The half of me that's left is consumed with sorrow, anger, and remorse. I don't believe there's the strength left to have to continue to live through this. Right now, the half of me that remains on this earth can't envision a future of pain. If that if all that's left to look foward to is pain, then maybe leaving here to join my other half would be the only path.

Anonymous said...

Hi,Vic. Just found your blog. My husband died forty-one day (on Nov 9,2011) after going to the doctor. He died on neck cancer. My son told me my grief is so deep because I loved him so much. Now life goes on, but not for me. It's funny how your brain knows he is dead but your heart doesn't have a clue.

irene tuzzolino said...

Hi, I was trying to find a support group for wives whose husbands died suddenly. I lost my husband on January 21st,2012. I found him when I got up. He had COPD so I knew his time was shorter but the shock and pain is no less. It helps that others know how I feel. Thank you and God Bless you all.

Don M. Poole said...

Hello, I just found your blog. My Wife, Teresa died on Sunday, Feb, 26th @ home. We were together almost 49 yrs and we were married in July, 1966. I woke her up @ 10 am and as I kissed her, she smiled and said she was tired so I left to make her coffee. After 20 mins. I returned to find her on the floor. Doctors said she never knew a thing. I miss so pray for me.

Anonymous said...

I lost my Charlie 17 days ago. Although he had a lung transplant almost 9 years ago he was doing well until he fell from a tractor cab and broke his wrist. Infection either from the open break or something in the surgery attacked his good lung (he was immunosuppressed from anti rejection drugs) He had serious pneumonia, irregular heart beat, had to be put on dialysis. suffered a hematoma and a perforated bowel. He was in the ICU for a month on a ventilator most of the time (they tried to take him off twice). I stayed with him night and day til my brother came from out of state to let me get a little rest. Charlie was in terrible pain all the time unless he was sedated. He had always said it was not living if all you did was go to the doctor all of the time and he was facing at least a year in a nursing home. I felt I had to let him go. We took him off the vent and kept him pain free. 30 hours later he died peacefully with me holding onto him and telling him how much I loved him. I can't seem to get over the guilt of taking him off the vent. Maybe we should have waited one more day!
We were married for 45 years. We have no children. It was always just the two of us.
I owned a shop for 20 years (it helped support us after Charlie became sick back in 1997. As I approached 66 we decided I should close the shop and retire. It took longer than neccessary because I kept thinking I could sell it. We were two weeks into an 8 week retirement sale when Charlie fell. Day after tomorrow the shop will close. What was to have been a day of celebration for the two of us (we just wanted to spend time together here on our farm) will be one of the saddest days of my life instead, just thinking of what might have been.
Grief is truly the most terrible thing. I can't imagine living without him. I don't suppose I would be brave enough to do anything about it, but I would welcome death. I want to be with Charlie.

Ang said...

Hello everyone. I just lost my boyfriend of over 11 years. He was at a friends house drinking, and was found the next day by his friend, dead on the couch. We are still awaiting autopsy results, as it has only been 1 week since he passed. I feel so lonely and lost. I have dodo many things I wanted to tell him. I am so afraid of what the autopsy will show. Is there something I could have done? On top of it all, I may be pregnant. I will be devastated if I am, yet devastated if I'm not. I also know when the autopsy comes back, I will start the grieving process all over again. Has anyone gone through a similar situation with no answers of cause of death? I would be happy to hear any advice.

Anonymous said...

I have not lost a spouse, but a dear friend, but this post has hit home better than any other.
A week ago she fell from a horse and the severe brain damage resulted in her death a few days later. The horse belongs to me, we shared him, and because of this I feel so to blame. My mind is also full of 'if onlys'.. if only id been there to stop it, if only id rung her before, .. anything that would have changed that time and space that resulted in her death. I know it's early.. it hasnt even had time to sink in.. as I write this im aware of it doing so just that little bit more. It's all over the news too, everywhere I turn there is something, someone, whether involved or not commenting on it. Im trying to be busy, keep going as she would have wanted, keep being told in time it will get better. But the thing is nothing at all is going to make this go away and I am so aware of that. I totally understand a previous comment of if death was an option i would take it. I have not only lost someone and am missing them but i feel so so guilty. And so afraid. The enormity of the situation is yet to hit, and I cannot bare the thought of more grief.
Thoughts are with everyone who has lost someone dear.

Anonymous said...

I too have just lost my husband in a tragic car accident May 9, 2012 and what you just described is EXACTLY what I'm feeling I feel soooo lost in this world. Everyone keeps telling me to be strong for my 5 year old son but I just don't know how. I am not suicidal but I'm not afraid of dying either. I want to be there for my son but I could barely take care of myself. I don't want to see anyone or go anywhere, it makes me upset when I see friends living their life's and back to their usual routine and I can't. I too want to know how long before this pain subsides when will my heart heal ? I feel like I'm slowly dying inside.

Isabel Lara said...

I just lost my 30yr old husband of 11 years in a tragic car accident May 9, 2012. He was heading towork to provide for his family when a 20 yr old crossed 3 lanes and a center divider and hit his Honda Civic head on killing him. I was left with a 5 year old son and a forever broken heart/life. I'm in so much pain I feel so lost I don't know what to do. I want answers I want to know what that girl was doing to have caused the accident and left me without my soulmate but the police report is still ongoing. My life has been turned upside down and I don't know how to get passed this pain. I want to wake up from this horrible dream, I miss him do much. I just want to see him walking in the door, I want to hear his voice and ask me how my day was. It's so hard hearing my son ask about his dad and how he wants to go to Gods house to see him. Family and friends tell me to be strong for my son but I just can't when I'm dying inside. The morning of the accident my Husband asked me to go outside and get my Bluetooth I had left in his car and I told him I'd get it later and it just keeps playing over and over in my head and I can't help but feel guilty because if I had just walked out and stalled him for just 1 minute it would have saved his life ! I don't know what to do, I'm not suicidal but I'm not afraid of dying. I've asked my Dr to refer me to a therapist but I
Don't feel that's helping, and their bereavement groups are not related to sudden deaths. Everyone in the group is elderly and have lost a loved one due to some kind of illness and although I'm sorry about their loss I don't feel they understand my pain.

Anonymous said...

I lost the love of my life 4 weeks ago, he shot accidently shot himself coming through a fence. I looked for him for hours and someone else found him. I keep reliving the night that the police, M E s were here his body was left in the bush for nearly 24 hours with the investigation and moving him and not finding him immediatly. Knowing he was there and there was nothing I could do. Stuck in the house while our property crawled with strangers, the bush glowing with lights from the investigation. My days are a blurr, I cant tell one day from the last. I am in grief councilling but I have worse days now, his family is pursuing me like it was my fault, blame, accusations, not a moments peace. I can.t begin to grieve trying to defend myself, and I am just so lost and want to be with him. Everything is a reminder or him, i aviod everything I can that triggers memories. and then I just drown myself in memories and saddness. I feel like I am slipping backwards and being consumed by waves of hopelessness

Anonymous said...

Dear Isabel, I know what you are going through, I too feel like no one knows how I feel. People say the right words and they are trying to be helpfull but I want to scream at them, U don't know, you don't understand, and you can't help. My kids are all that keep me going. They are older than yours and they are trying so hard to support me, my loss was not their father but my fiance. He shot himself accidently. He was sexy and funny and laughed all the time. I have this huge hole where he filled my life, I keep asking myself what will I do, how will I keep going. So I write to him every night. The days are still awful, the nights are still worse than awful. But I tell him about every day, and I tell him what I wish, and I tell him that I love him just like he will read it. Its a way to communicate my feelings and get them out without being a burden on my children with my intense grief. I also am seeing someone for grief council. I don''t know if this will help you, but I wanted to reach out because I feel like you do. I have the same thoughts, if I had done some little thing different he would be here. Well he's not and I did'nt. I am sleeping with his shirt and track pants, I am sleeping in the comforter from the sleeper of the truck because I can't wash my sheets because he slept in them. I know what you are going through because I am doing it every day too. I start crying at any given time during the day, I am suffering, and i wish i could have someone to be miserable with that I was'nt upsetting while I am emotional and sad. Take care and my thougts are with all those who lost their best friend, their partner and the love of their life, because I am living it to, or I am there to because I am not really living at this time.

Anonymous said...

I was so sorry to hear about your loss. I too understand how you feel. My husband died this past May while driving with our kids in the car. Doctors say he suffered a massive heart attack but Im sure it wasnt due to the fact before he left us, he complained of head pain so I am still grieving but I wil tell you this it was their time to go and time does heal all wounds. Hang in there and keep the faith. Thats how I get by.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 1 Jan 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I know it is cold comfort, but I've heard that one of the most common symptoms of heart problems is sudden death. I've read many similar stories, so you are not alone.

If you can find a local grief peer support group, you'll meet other people who have also lost their loved one suddenly. They can help you find some peace.

Take care,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 16 Jan 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I'm so sorry at the pain and sorrow you are experiencing. After Deb died, I was totally unprepared for just how much pain and anguish I would have to endure. For a long time, it just got worse and worse, and I too wasn't able to see an end to it.

But one thing I've learned is that there is nothing as constant as change. As my pain got worse, my grieving changed. And I changed as well. And after I had changed enough (many, many months later), the pain started getting better. And my grief continued to change, and I continued to change.

Today (and for several years now), I am no longer grieving. I don't experience that terrible pain and suffering anymore.

All this to say that, even though you maybe can't see a future consisting of anything else but pain, a gentler, kinder future is likely ahead of you. It was for me, even though I couldn't envision it at the time. And I'm glad that I've emerged from that dark painful journey of grief. I wish that for you too.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 28 Jan 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

You are right -- knowing with our head that our spouse is dead means little to our heart. I learned the hard way that grief isn't logical, it is experiential. Only by experiencing grief can we transform ourselves and integrate our loss.

Experiencing grief -- what does that mean? For me, it was simple. If I felt the tears coming on, I let them come. And I cried until the tears were done. And if the person sitting on the bus beside me didn't like it, tough!

Yes, life does go on, much to our dismay. We need time to grieve, to make sense of what has happened to us. Like many others, it took me about 2 years to make sense of Deb's death, to find peace with it all. And then I could get on with life again.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Irene, I'm very sorry for your loss.

You wrote something very profound: "It helps that others know how I feel." You bet it does! In the context of a grief peer support group, it helps you and it helps them!

I hope you were able to find such a support group. If you still need help finding one, let me know and I'll do what I can.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Don, I'm very sorry for your loss.

It sounds like you had a wonderful life together. Are you able to find a grief peer support group near you? If you could tell other people who lost their spouse some of the stories of your life together, it will help you and them as well.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 26 April 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I too had to make the decision to stop life support, so I get where you're coming from. It is a terrible decision to make, but in the end, we make it out of love.

Grief is terrible, and painful, and lonely, and much else besides. A big part of us dies with our spouse, including our ability to imagine a brighter day down the road.

I talk often on this blog about the journey of grief, but the symbol of grief is a butterfly. I can relate to tucking myself into a little cocoon, dark and lonely, quite content to let the world pass me by. I cared for little but my own misery.

But grief transformed me, and I did emerge in time to a life I couldn't imagine before. A life of peace and wonder, and yes, happiness.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 4 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I know this doesn't make your grieving any easier, but guilt is a very, very common component of grief. Here's the reality -- you did the best you could at the time. Had you known she would fall, you would have done something about it. But you didn't know.

Grief has come to you now, and it will likely stay for some time. The trick I learned was to go with the flow of grief. It would lead and I needed to follow. Sometimes that meant crying, and sometimes it meant dropping everything and just being still. After many, many months, after many, many tears, I came to find peace in that stillness.

May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

I feel like I am going silently insane..My husband died 1 week ago and I cant deal with the loss. I miss him so much and I want to talk to him ..I keep telling myself what I am feeling is from my grief. my energy is gone ...my tears wont stop..I just cant function. I start to question my sanity and feel like I will never get through this. I have been left with so many things that he usually handled and I am so overwhelmed ....How long will this continue?????

Vic said...

Hi Ang, I'm very sorry for your loss.

Are you able to find a grief peer support group in your area? There are people there who can support you.

When I was grieving, I heard a number of stories at support group from people who also had to wait for autopsies, and yes, the final report (which sometimes took months) often triggered another wave of grief. But often it helped to provide a degree of closure.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 17 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I think people say "be strong" because they don't want to see us fall apart. Well, tough. That's what grief seems to demand. Ironically, it was when I stopped fighting it and allowed grief to take over my life that I began to heal. So while people mean well, they really have no idea.

As for how long your grief journey will take, that answer is as unique as you are. A common number seems to be 2 years, but I've met numerous people who took much longer than that, especially if the death was sudden. It takes however long it takes. But it does end.

You are right -- it is upsetting to see life continue on for everyone else. When we are grieving, it is very easy to feel "stuck." But, our body knows how to grieve. It moves us along in its own way. I learned to trust the process.

As for your guilt, please believe me -- you did the best you could have at the time with the information you had. Of course you would have delayed him a minute if you had known he would die! But you didn't know. No one can blame you for not being omniscient.

I'm sorry the support group you found is made up of mostly elderly people whose spouse died of illness. If you need help finding a more relevant peer support group, let me know and I'll do what I can to help.

In the meantime, be kind to yourself. Grieving for Deb was the hardest 2 years of my life. It helped me a lot to know that there is no "right" way to grieve, that my grief journey would be unique. I found much peace simply walking on nature trails with my young son in the sunshine. It helped remind me that I'm part of something much larger than myself and my troubles.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 20 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

Unfortunately, you've described grieving all too well -- drowning in waves of hopelessness. Except that we don't die, but we don't really live either. We are consumed by memories and sadness.

Five weeks are still early days for you yet. I'd love to tell you it will get better, but it will likely get worse first.

Keeping with the water analogy, in some ways grief is like a river. When I fought the current of grief, I didn't really heal much if at all. It was only when I let myself go and allowed the current of grief to take me, that is when my healing began.

It wasn't easy and it hurt like hell, but eventually grief had taken me everywhere it wanted me to go. That's the good news -- the journey will eventually end. The hard part is being ok with that journey.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 22 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

Thank you so much for sharing your grief journey. It is so important for others to know that they are not crazy, that it is quite ok to sleep in your dead spouse's clothes, to talk to him, to write to him. It is very, very common bereavement behavior. And it helps.

If you can find a local grief peer support group, you will find those people to be miserable with who won't be upset by your emotions and sadness. In fact, you'll be helping them. And they in turn can help you find some peace amid the storm.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 24 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

Thanks so much for sharing your encouraging words. Reaching out to others is a powerful way to heal.

May you find peace,

Vic

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 25 June 2012), I'm very sorry for your loss.

One week is very early days for you. You're not going crazy, you're grieving. Yes, everything is overwhelming, and it is impossible to function as before. That is part of grief. When your husband died, your old life died as well. And this new life is unbearable.

Except that strangely we do bear it somehow. The waves of grief smash down on us, but after a while we get used to the pattern. We have a new life now, but we're not really in charge. Grief is. For a long time, it will be grief that calls the shots.

And that's ok, because our bodies know how to grieve. We just have to follow grief's lead.

You ask how long grief will last -- the answer to that question is as unique as you are. It is probably safe to factor in a couple of years. And don't be too alarmed by that concept. Your grief will change as you change. It will vary in intensity and frequency, sometimes better, often worse in the beginning. Always transforming. That's where keeping a journal can be helpful, so that you can see the progress, month by agonizing month.

Grief changes us because we need to change. We can't keep living the life that died with our spouse. A new life awaits us on the other side of our grief journey. But first we have to grieve, and that takes time. How much time? As long as it needs.

Do trust in the process. Having completed my grief journey, I can appreciate why I had to go through all that. I wanted peace, and eventually I found it.

May you find peace,

Vic

Anonymous said...

I lost my husband in a car accident on may 16/2012 one day after his 34th birthday! I have 2 yearx old boy and i am pregnant 12 weeks..I am in shock!! I really wished that am the one who died..i cant wish death now cuz i have responsibilites but i cant live..and i cant see my friends having their normal routine going on while i lost everything..i cant imagine myself happy again..

LA said...

I lost my 50 year old spouse saturday, july 7, 2012, less than 5 days ago. She declined quickly from liver failure and died in front of me, and I thought she was just going to take a nap (she had been having a hard time sleeping, due to fluid build-up). My Mom sent me this page to help deal, and tonight I have tried to use the idea of trying to start to say goodbye. We'll see. I miss her somethin' fierce, and I do not want to let her go, but at least the last words she heard me says was "I love you".

Debbie said...

I was not married to my sweet lover, but I would have married him in a heartbeat. My boyfriend of less than 2 years came into my life by a very slim chance, just as I was going through a divorce I did not want. I was still very much in love with my husband whom I spent 19 years with, and I was devastated by his rejection. My boyfriend saved me from going insane, showing me the most gentleness and caring that I have ever had in my entire life. He was truly my angel.

Only eight months into our relationship my boyfriend had his first heart attack. Medical issues that stemmed from childhood gave him a compromised heart and other physical impairments, and eight years prior to us meeting he had had his first open heart surgery. The mild heart attack he suffered after we met required another open heart surgery with bypasses. He was hospitalized for six and a half weeks. I was there for him every day, and I became his full time caregiver for several months afterwards while he recovered, which he never did 100%.

One of the bypasses blocked up again and he started having angina last fall. The doctors tried to avoid surgery, which would have been traumatic for him, but the medications did not help. My dear love had another heart attack on January 10, 2012, and this time it was a major heart attack. He lasted 3 days and then he gave up the fight after several hours of touch and go. That day he had looked into my eyes but could not talk to me because he was on a ventilator. I wonder if he knew he was going to die. He was heavily sedated and I urged him to relax and rest, and I soothed him by rubbing his head.

I loved him more deeply than he loved me, but I know now that he loved me more than he let on. I have had connections with him since he died. He comes to me in dreams when I ask him to, and he has been in the apartment we shared together, which I still live in. Strange things happen sometimes and once he passed by me and I caught his scent. A medium spoke with his second cousin and my lover mentioned me. The medium said "He LOVES her." I was touched beyond words. The man maintains a connection with me.

I miss him terribly. He treated me so well while we were together, with respect and tenderness like I have never known before. He was a very good man. We had less than two short years together. He was only 49 years old when he left the physical realm.

Now six months later I still suffer with my grief. I think of him and cry at some point every day. It is different than the very beginning of the grieving process. At first it was shock and numbness, then two weeks of the deepest grief...a gray cloud over me that would not leave. It got better and I felt some peace, but the pain is back, and a few weeks ago I wanted to be dead myself.

Our time was so short and I cherished the moments we had, knowing in my soul that with his poor health I would not have him for many years. I had hoped for five or ten years together. It was not to be.

I talk to him all the time like he is here with me, and I am open to him communicating from the other side. I think that is why he sometimes does come to me, because I welcome it. It is wonderful, yet painful as all get out at the same time. I want to touch him and be with him so badly. Some days I still can't believe he is gone. I had something so beautiful in my life and I thought I was on a better road to happiness.

These days I am starting to believe that I won't be happy in this life, but maybe in the next. All I wanted was to find that one special someone to spend my life with, love with all of my heart, and be loved the same in return, and what I got was two failed marriages and a deceased boyfriend. I am a good person, very loyal, and I love with everything I am. I have serious trust issues with men and I don't think I can survive another heartbreak again, so I don't know if I will try another relationship. It is just not fair to lose yet another man I deeply loved.

Debbie said...

To continue....

I am so very lonely. My boyfriend and I loved affection and physical touch. I feel like I am dying inside without him......without his humor, his physical touch, and our intimate time together. He made me feel so comfortable from day one, and I miss everything that made him the most wonderful man he was.

I truly don't know how I will have any kind of pleasure in my life without him. It sounds crazy, because people suffer every day with loss and move on. I just don't have the strength inside myself anymore. I have been through far too much during the course of my life to even know how to get through yet another traumatic event. I am 45 and burned out.

I would do anything to get my boyfriend back. The only consolation at all is knowing that he is well and not suffering anymore.

It seems to be a common theme that you have to be happy being alone before you can be happy with someone else. I think that is a crock of bull. I have never been so happy as when I was with a loving companion. I can't stand being alone. I can be at peace when I am alone, but I am the happiest when I have a loving partner to share my life with. I just don't see that happening again for me.

For now I want to maintain the connection I have with my boyfriend for as long as he wants to make contact. I know that keeps me from letting him go, but for right now I just can't do it anyway. It took me 2 years (while with my boyfriend) and a lot of spiritual work on myself for me to get through and let go of my divorce pain. I can't imagine that it will take me less than two years to get through this grief.

I will love him and miss him for as long as I live, this I am certain.

Donna said...

my husband died suddenly in bed. I went to check on him because he had been sleeping so long and I no longer heard him snoring. It was to late. the coroner said that he had been dead for several hours. He had no medical problems and had been feeling fine. they guessed it was his heart even though he had never had heart problems. we had been married for 39 years. I was 18 when we first started living together he was 21. I never new what pain was until this happened. I really don't want to live. But i don't think i can take my life becuase i have a 29 year old son that i love, and i can't do that to him. he would be losing both parents. the guilt of "if only" is with me every minute. it has been 6 weeks now since he died. I cry myself sick every day.He is the love of my life I only wish that it had been me instead of him. but then he would have been going through this. I am so lost, alone, afraid, I just want him back so bad.

Debbie said...

Donna....I wrote the two posts above yours.

I am so sorry for your loss. It sounds like your husband did not suffer, and that is a real blessing. Please know that he is at peace and surrounded by light and love. He is always with you whether you realize it or not. He still feels your great love for him.

I know what you are feeling. You are right in that it is probably the worst emotional pain a human being can go through, to lose an intimate partner. It is more than you think you can handle sometimes. It is all still so fresh for you right now and you are still in shock.

I too wanted to be dead. I understand now why people say that. You just want to join your partner because being here without them is just too much to bear. As human beings we desire the companionship and affection a partner provides, and without it we feel alone and ripped to shreds from the loss.

It has been over 9 months for me now, and the pain is still pretty bad. Every day I miss my sweetheart. I move along in life sometimes like a robot, but at least I am moving. I am doing the best I can, but I am not happy. It will take a long time for that, if it will ever happen again.

All I can say is to be good to yourself. Take things one day at a time, one hour at a time, if need be. Don't expect too much of yourself right now as you work your way through the pain and try to function for another day. It is very hard, and you have indeed been damaged. You need time to heal and to process what has happened.

Take time for yourself to just rest. Grief can be so exhausting. Do only what you can manage for a while until you can get your footing back. Try to eat properly and get enough sleep. Take care of yourself the best you can. It does help.

I know, I understand, and again, I am so sorry.

Anonymous said...

I wrote the post on June 2o/2012. I look back over the last 5 months without him, and the shock has worn off and now I am grieving. I cry every day, I call it having a moment, and I have them daily. I cannot wish him back, cause I tried, I take out his clothes or shaving kit to trigger the smell of him with the memories. Now I am at the point where I appear normal to others, meaning I don't look like crap, I lost 30 lbs, no desire to eat. But I think I was in shock for weeks, I don't remember much of the first couple months. I asked my councillor if I was off my nut, he said no, so I keep on keepin on. I think the only thing that kept me alive through this has been my children, I am sure I would not have made it without them. At thanks giving I told my daughter who lived with us that I still have some things to be thankful for. And I do. I relive the moments with each day as an anniversary to the year before, and feel cheated. Nothing will ever be like it was, but I know that I have to get my life together so my daughter can heal. I miss him every moment of every day, I cannot change what happened and you are right Vic. I have to take the journey that grief gives me. It's part of him, and a way to somehow come to terms with the loss and finality of his death. It does not make it instantly better and it was worse for a time, but at least I can get through a day without being a zombie. I am coming to 6 months and I want to live, I don't know what will happen because with his death came the realization that your whole life can be destroyed in an instant. I do not have the tools yet to put it together, but at least I am looking for them. I kept a journal, I wrote to him every night, wrote down vivid memories, thoughts, things I would say to him if he was alive. He cannot read it, but its a way to put thoughts into something physical that's for him only. I read back and I cry, and some of the things I wrote make me laugh because he would have laughed. To each of you with loss, wrap yourself in the knowledge that your spouse loved you. let that be some strength that even death cannot take from you.

Vic said...

Hi Anonymous (from 29 June), I'm very sorry for your loss.

I have a bit of an idea as to how you are feeling -- my son also was two years old when Deb died. And yes, it is a bizarre feeling to see life carry on as normal for others when our life gets turned upside down.

What I came to appreciate during my grieving, and a concept I now apply to my everyday life, is that my feelings are constantly changing. Yes, for many many days I felt similarly horrible. Similar, but not identical. Looking back, I can see that my feelings were changing, little by little. I grieved for about two years, and then it was largely over.

Writing now from an additional four years on the other side of grief, it is starting to be hard to remember what it was like to grieve. My life is so different now -- I've remarried, I now have 4 boys to raise, I've started new projects, work is going well, and I continue to meet new people and build great friendships.

Why do I mention this? When I was grieving, I too couldn't imagine myself being happy again. That was looking too far into the future. I needed to focus on getting through another minute, another second. As the days and months passed, I could gradually start shifting my time horizon to getting through another day. Then another week. Then another month. Before I knew it, I was starting to think more about the future and less about being a widower. It was then that I could start imagining the day when I would be happy again. Today, I can't imagine myself *not* being happy.

So hang in there! Find a local grief peer-support group, take each moment as it comes, and take care of yourself and your son. My heart goes out to you.

Vic

Vic said...

Hi LA, I'm very sorry for your loss.

It has been 4 months now for you, so you are probably getting in to the worst of it. Is there a peer-based support group near you? I started attending around the 5-6 month mark, and it really helped me.

Take care,

Vic

Anonymous said...

It has been six days since I lost my beloved Mike. Last week Mike complained of shortness of breath, but so many people have had the flu that Mike thought he had it too. I was persistent that he go to the doctor. He finally went last Friday, but the doctor was not in his office. I called Mike to see what the doctor said and he told me the doctor was out. I told him to go to our walk in medical clinic. He said he was fine. On Saturday he was not feeling well and stayed in bed saying her had the flu. I checked on him many time and got him what he needed throughout the day. As we went to bed and the next morning we talked about how excited we were to be having Christmas with our five children, daughter-in-law and out six wonderful grandchildren. Our kids live all over the United States and, even though we are extremely close and talk all the time, we have not all been together in two years. Then it happened. As we were getting ready, he collapsed and yelled my name. That was it. 22 years of wonderful memories is all I have. I am been thru many emotions. I read that sometimes when you lose a husband suddenly that you wish you could say you are sorry or that you love them, but that was not necessary with the two of us...it was known. I have also been angry that he didn't get additional medical treatment, but if Mike thought for one minute that he was at risk of leaving me/us he would do anything necessary to be here. I am left with a shattered heart. Our bedroom where he died is my safe place. No one is allowed in our room. When family, friends or the world gets too much, I just go to my safe place. I don't know what the next ten minutes will bring, but I do know that I have experienced true love and we are an example of what love is! Everyone knew it. I will see you again my love when my time comes. I am not afraid. I don't know God's plan for me but I will carry you with me every minute. We are the same, but now very different. I miss you.

Anonymous said...

My husband of 17 years died suddenly on January 27, 2013. I found him dead on the family room floor that morning. He had been to the doctor on January 4th and to a cardiologist on January 14th. He was told to make another appointment in 6-8 weeks. He died 2 weeks later. It wasn't until February 5th, when I received the death certificate in the mail, that I knew what caused his death -aortic dissection.

I went back to work on February 21st. I transitioned back into my job working some partial days and eventually back to full days, sometimes working 14 hours. On April 26th, I requested a 2 week leave of absence. By this point, I had lost about 30 pounds and hadn't sleep 6-8 hours consecutively. I was completely exhausted and consumed in grief.

I focused on healing over the last 2 weeks. I am going to grief counseling, sleeping when I need to, and trying to eat something everyday.

I am suppose to return to work on Monday. I really don't know if I can put forth the find of stamina, energy, and focus that is needed in my work. I am concerned that I will not meet my bosses expectations. On the flip side, I am also afraid to take a longer break from work. What is wrong with me??? Why can't I just go to work and forget about all the pain? I don't know what to do. Do I resign and take a break for a while? Will I find another job? What will I do without health insurance? Any thoughts or experiences that others have had would be very helpful to me.

joanie said...

Vic,
can you tell me what you mean by "coulda, shoulda, woulda, didnta." I am in a debilitating quagmire of feeling responsible for not doing enough to save my spouse and without trying to seem invasive, can you comment on what you mean about keeping certain thoughts about Deb in place now. thank you for your site. it is different than most. Joan

Vic said...

Hi Joanie, I'm very sorry for your loss.

What do I mean by mean by "coulda, shoulda, woulda, didnta!"?

For many people (and not just grievers!), a good chunk of their inner dialog sounds something like this:

"I could have said something that sounded more intelligent instead of like an idiot."

"I should have told him sooner."

"I would have been more compassionate if I had known."

"I didn't do what I should have done."

So the point of the phrase "coulda, shoulda, woulda, didnta!" is to cut short this pointless inner scolding. Why didn't you do what you could/should/would have? Because you did the best you could at the time. You didn't do what you couldn't do, namely, do better than you were capable of at that time.

How can anyone (even you!) berate you for doing your best?

If you could have done better, you would have. But you didn't have the capacity to do better. So you did the best you could have at the time.

If you were better, you should have done better. But you weren't better. You were at your best at the time, so you did the best you could have at the time.

You didn't do better because you couldn't do better at that time.

So the next time that critical inner voice (whom my former mentor affectionately called "that vile bitch upstairs") starts beating you up about not doing enough, you can remind her that you did the best you could at the time.

Does this help?

Take care,

Vic

Anonymous said...

I lost my wife suddenly of 23 years on June 14, 2013, from an accidental prescription drug overdose. At the time I thought it was the worst thing I could experience, recalling the medics performing cpr on my kitchen floor at 2 in the morning as I and my two young boys looked on. The days following in the hospital while she was in a coma, shook me to the core. Having to visit the cemetery and think about planning for the inevitable, looking back now it was all a fog. The shock or numbness has now begun to wear off and now I feel the lonliness, the loss, talking to her sometimes in our bedroom. The should of would of could of thing Vic mentioned here helps me, but I still cry about the things I should of done or said and didnt. I dont really know where life goes from here for me, I have to hang in there for my two kids who are 21 and 17, but as for the rest of it, it just sucks and doesnt seem like for me there is much to hold on to. Each week I make a list of things I will do to try to pick myself up, go workout, go to work, clean house, and as the week unfolds I just usually do little if anything other than stay up late and think about the past. I also find myself waking up at 5 am or so after only sleeping a few short hours each night. Im so tired every day from lack of sleep but I just dont seem able to sleep for long. Also now at night Im beginning to have dreams of Teresa, like I'm talking with her and stuff, only to wake up and find I am all alone. This just sucks. I read all over the place how things get better, but Im not sure I really want them to or that I even care anymore. I just find myself going through the motions each day with little care of how things turn out anymore.